SUN DEVELOPMENT & Management Corp. is close to starting a $30 million project that will transform a former African American church in downtown Indianapolis into a dual-branded hotel.
The Indianapolis-based company, founded by Bharat Patel, CEO and chairman, acquired the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church building and the land for $3.8 million in April 2016, after the congregation could not raise enough money to repair the aged structure.
Patel expects the Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites by Hilton to open in 2019, adding 200 rooms to the downtown market.
Patel plans to preserve a good portion of the building in an effort to save a piece of local history. The brick church was built in 1869, and served as a stop along the Underground Railroad as well as the site of the founding of the Indianapolis chapter of the NAACP. Portions of the 148-year-old building are protected by the Indiana Historical Society.
Patel plans to build the hotels next to the property, reinforce the current church structure with steel and use it as the hotel’s lobby and meeting space, including a conference hall. He plans to incorporate much of the church’s woodwork, windows and other architectural features in the design.
Sun Development also is giving $50,000 a year for 10 years to Bethel AME to help it maintain its new house of worship, which is under construction.